The Use of Racial Categories in Precision Medicine Research

Callier, Shawneequa L.
Ethnicity & Disease

Scholars have shown that promoting diversity and inclusion in precision medicine research is important for ethical and scientific reasons. The processes for classifying the populations that enroll in biomedical research, however, are often unclear, inconsistent, and poorly justified. Precision medicine research promises increasingly meticulous approaches to defining research cohorts and assessing the multivariate factors at the root of racial health disparities. Insofar as precision medicine is promoted to members of historically underrepresented populations as a tool for illuminating these factors, the use of race-based classifications is fraught with risks for society and medicine. This article examines the drivers and limitations of the ongoing use of race by investigators juxtaposed with recent efforts to enroll underrepresented populations in precision medicine research.